American woman diagnosed with rare disorder after waking up with British accent

It can be challenging to learn a new accent. For one American woman, all it took was some shut eye.

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Michelle Myers, an Arizona residents, has been speaking with a British accent for two years due to foreign accent syndrome, a rare speech disorder that causes a person to speak with an accent different from their native one. 

Although doctors do not know exactly what triggered the change, Myers, who has never left the United States, told Phoenix’s ABC 15 she noticed the difference after taking a snooze to ward off an excruciating migraine. 

Within the last seven years, Myers has gone to sleep with a headache twice only to wake up with a new voice. First, she had an Irish one and then an Australian one. Both lasted for about a week, but the third instance left her with a British accent that has persisted. 

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"Some people think it’s physiological; others think it’s psychological. People like me - we don’t care which one it is. We just really want to be taken seriously,” said the mother of seven. 

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Many doctors say it’s neurological. The condition typically occurs after a patient suffers a stroke or traumatic brain injury that damages the portion of the brain that controls language, according to the Center for Communication Disorders at the University of Texas at Dallas.

“Speech may be altered in terms of timing, intonation, and tongue placement so that is perceived as sounding foreign,” the scientists wrote, but “speech remains highly intelligible and does not necessarily sound disordered.”

The first case was documented in 1907, and there have been more than 60 cases within the last century, the National Institutes of Health said in a 2011 study. People have experienced accent changes from Japanese to Korean, British English to French, American-English to British English and Spanish to Hungarian.

There is currently no cure, but Myers is looking forward to future studies on her condition.

 “If it is something that’s going to hurt me,” she said, “help me.”

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